God doesn’t much care whether we (physically) live or die (part II) — Jacob agrees

January 4, 2005    By: Geoff J @ 9:38 pm   Category: Atonement & Soteriology,Scriptures,Theology

After hearing my assertion that God isn’t much concerned with mortal life and death, a blogger called danithew brought Jacob’s discourse in 2 Nep. 9 to my attention. The discourse by Jacob is very relevant to an examination of the proper view of human life and death. Here is what danithew wrote:

I was thinking about what you are saying and it is quite interesting. One thought I have is that due to the atonement of Jesus Christ, God has the capability to dismiss death to a certain degree … mainly because the gift of the resurrection is in place. Those whose bodies and spirits are separated in death will inevitably have their spirits and bodies reunited in the resurrection.

Then I remembered a Book of Mormon verse that uses the word monster. I did a scripture search on this word, that hardly ever shows up in the scriptures, and found that three of the times it does appear are in 2 Nephi. The term that is repeated three times is actually “awful monster” and it is used to refer to “death and sin.” It’s interesting to me that the singular “monster” is repeatedly used to refer to the devil, death and sin … maybe these three are somehow wrapped up in one – I would have expected that the term used would be the plural “monsters.” Here are the verses:

2 Nephi 9:10
O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit.

That verse is interesting because of the way the word “monster” is repeated. It could have been written only once but apparently that wasn’t enough. The next cited verse describes the “awful monster” as “the devil, and death, and hell” … so again the singular “monster” is being used to combine a number of terrible things.

2 Nephi 9:19
O the greatness of the mercy of our God, the Holy One of Israel! For he delivereth his saints from that awful monster the devil, and death, and hell, and that lake of
fire and brimstone, which is endless torment.

And then the next verse also as the same list of “death and hell, and the devil” and describes them as “that awful monster.”

2 Nephi 9:26
For the atonement satisfieth the demands of his justice upon all those who have not the law given to them, that they are delivered from that awful monster, death and hell, and the devil, and the lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment; and they are restored to that God who gave them breath, which is the Holy One of Israel.

My feeling about this is that yes, death is a monster but that it is a monster that has been contained. Perhaps then God is saddened when this monster is unleashed all at once on so many people … but at the same time God has the complete assurance that any devastation that has occurred is temporary (from an eternal perspective).

He makes some good points here. One important one is that Jacob talks of a single three-headed (two-headed in v.10) monster rather than multiple monsters. Jacob also makes it perfectly clear that because of the fulfillment of the “great plan of our God”(v. 13) by Christ that the temporal death head of the monster has no bite — it is no longer God’s concern and shouldn’t be ours. (Jacob recognized death as not an evil, but a simple fact when he said [v4] “For I know that ye have searched much, many of you, to know of things to come; wherefore I know that ye know that our flesh must waste away and die”. He can be calm about this reality because he concludes the verse with “nevertheless, in our bodies we shall see God”). But even with one head incapacitated, the monster is still a very dangerous one. Look how Jacob treats the subject:

Verse 10: Jacob glories in the fact that God has prepared a “way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster” – we can win.
Verse 19: He explains that God “delivereth his saints from that awful monster” – so we want to qualify to be called saints
Verse 26: Jacob explains that in addition to saints, another group is spared from the monster’s remaining head(s). “For the atonement satisfieth the demands of his justice upon all those who have not the law given to them, that they are delivered from that awful monster”. – Too late for anyone reading this to get this exemption, but very comforting regarding the children and others lost in the Tsunami.

This helps illustrate the point I was trying to make originally — physical death really doesn’t matter much to God, but spiritual death means everything. Spiritual death is necessarily a result of our agency (thus those who do not have law are immune).

That is why Jacob goes on to warn us against real and potentially lasting tragedies like despising the poor, persecuting the meek, setting our hearts on (and even worshipping) riches, being deaf or blind to God, lying, murdering, committing whoredoms, or worshipping other idols. (V 30-38). He then says in v. 39

O, my beloved brethren, remember the awfulness in transgressing against that Holy God, and also the awfulness of yielding to the enticings of that cunning one. Remember, to be carnally-minded is death, and to be spiritually-minded is life eternal.

The point of my original post is just this: God is only concerned about the monster’s deadly remaining head(s) – hell and the devil. It is our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and repentance, or lack thereof, that determines the damage the monster can do to us.

4 Comments »

  1. Welcome to the neighborhood, Geoff. I’ll add you to my blogroll.

    So how is it that in the OT God treats death in a rather cavalier fashion, but in the NT He notices even the death of a sparrow (Matt. 10:28-31). I think life was cheap in the ancient world but has come to be valued more highly in the Christian era.

    Comment by Dave — January 5, 2005 @ 2:39 pm

  2. WhooHooo! Someone actually read my post! (And having it read by someone cool like you, Dave, makes it all the better.) Anyway, thanks for the welcome. I’m a fan of BCC.

    In response to your comment about Old an New Testament differences: My contention is that God never has and never will be very concerned with mortal death — at least He will never be nearly as worked up about it as we are down here in Babylon. He noticed sparrows deaths in Adamic times too — He just didn’t (and doesn’t) worry about it. It is the “life of the soul” — not the life of the body — that God is concerned about.

    Therefore, care not for the body, neither the life of the body; but care for the soul, and for the life of the soul.D&C 101: 37

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — January 5, 2005 @ 3:14 pm

  3. I agree that God probably is not that concerned with death in concept. I would assert, however, that much of the death (and suffering) of this world is man made. I imagine that God is very concerned about that, because (as you say) it affects man’s spirit.

    I would also assert that God cares about our suffering. Even though he is not concerned with Death in concept, the Mormon tradition contends that God is material, passionate, and personal. The consequence of these beliefs is that God is a “God of the Details” and that he cares about us and our suffering.

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 6, 2005 @ 12:28 pm

  4. Thanks for the note J.

    1. God does care about murder (in all of its forms). But as you mentioned it is not the murdered that concerns him, but the murderer. The victim moves on to the next phase of life, the other must repent or ?suffer even as I have suffered? .

    2. This earthly suffering question is something entirely different… God is filled with mercy and love toward us (notwithstanding His justice). I’m just not sure we have the needed perspective to understand what real suffering is. What we might think is excruciating suffering, God might consider “remodeling”. (I’m thinking of the CS Lewis house remodeling parable in Mere Christianity.)

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — January 6, 2005 @ 4:59 pm

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